The United States is called the "land of the free." But some immigrants do not feel free to keep their surnames.

Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Milagros “Millie” Cartagena-Ferrer Pruitt was accustomed to the Spanish language and traditions. On Oct. 9, 1961, that all changed when she moved to Alabama to join the Women’s Army Corps at Fort McClellan.

Shortly before 7 p.m., Charles Carter sorts through his music. With concentration, he lays out 10 CDs by Spanish singer Julio Iglesias. Iglesias’ songs would soon travel across the airwaves from East Tennessee to as far as Hickory, North Carolina, thanks to Carter and the WETS-FM show “Ritmo Latino.”

Their paths were different, but Johnson City interpreters Daniela Dau and Courtney Cevallos are dedicated to using language to break down barriers in the court system.

Dau was born into the Spanish language as a native of Chile, and can usually identify herself as the only Latina next to the judge’s bench. Cevallos, with her blonde hair, blue eyes and pale complexion, takes a moment longer to convince her clients that she’s qualified for her job.

Martin Ceron has never met his newborn son Enrique. He has not set foot in the United States in two years. His wife, Brenda Bustos, is 2,000 miles away in Erwin, Tennessee, while he is in Mexico City.

The family is being torn apart as a result of U.S. legislation on illegal immigration.

“My parents are here, but he is my family,” said Bustos. “My family is down there, and I know he needs my support.”

A burning log in the fireplace may produce a pleasant smell, but this method of warming a home in the winter may present risks to people with respiratory problems. Smoke, whether from wood, coal or tobacco products, gives off particles in the air that are considered household air pollutants.

A new five-year study looks at how those airborne particles affect patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, who live in rural and urban areas. The patients will be visited three times over a span of six months, and monitors will be placed in their homes to look for toxins in the air.  Dr. Mildred Maisonet, a professor at East Tennessee State University, leads the rural side of the study.

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